Health DG tells why borders will remain closed

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

PUTRAJAYA: The health ministry today explained its caution over border control, saying some Malaysians returning to the country had tested positive for Covid-19 only after a second screening.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said 360 Malaysians who returned from overseas tested positive for the virus, 88 of which cases were only detected the day before their 14-day quarantine was to have ended.

“They tested negative first. So we quarantined them, but on the 13th day we swabbed them again and they were positive.

“Because of that, we are very concerned about opening our borders. It would be the last thing we do,” he told reporters during his daily briefing here when asked if there were plans to open up the country’s borders.

Border control is among the six criteria, outlined by the ministry, for the movement control order (MCO) — enforced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic since March 18 — to be lifted.

Noor Hisham stressed that border control was very important and that at the moment, there was a need to tighten it and ensure returnees undergo the mandatory quarantine.

However, he said the ministry was focusing on transmissions first.

“If we can control it, then in time to come we will look at the global situation before opening our borders. Even so, there will be SOPs (standard operating procedures) to adhere to, including quarantine.”

Meanwhile, the ministry said they will decide on opening other sectors, such as the social and education sector, pending on the outcome of the conditional MCO on May 18 — after a 14 day “incubation period”.

The CMCO was enforced on May 4.

Noor Hisham said that if the cases after May 18 were still “within our control”, it indicated that more sectors could be opened up.

“But if cases continue to increase, and the ‘R naught’ continues to increase, then we will have to reverse our decision.”

“R naught” is a term to indicate how contagious an infectious disease is.

Noor Hisham said that since the MCO and CMCO, the “R naught” has been reduced to 0.3 from 3.55.

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